It’s the Most Crazy, Hectic, Wonderful Time of the Year

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December 21, 2012 by caitlinvaclark

I don’t have a new dinner dish for you today because, guess who enjoyed another amazing bowl of split pea soup for dinner last night. I’m telling you, it really gets better the second day. I’ve been keeping busy and everything is coming together around here. Food purchased, prepped, shoved in my fridge. Check. Clean linens laid out in the guest room. Check. House is clean(ish). Check? Presents are wrapped and under the tree. Check.

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I thought I would take the next couple days to tell you about some great appetizers to make for the holidays, whether you plan on hosting a party, don’t want to attend a gathering empty handed, or just want some snacks on hand. That’s how we usually do things here: a huge Christmas breakfast and then nibbles all day until we are somehow hungry yet again for a grand Christmas dinner.

I adapted these Spinach Dip Bowls from Picky Palate*, using frozen spinach, homemade dough, raw garlic (I really like the bite it gives), and my all time favorite seasoning blend (no it’s actually not from Penzeys!?!)- Papa Cristos’ Greek Seasoning. This  LA store is owned by my fabulous friend, Dena’s, family and is a mecca of Greek deliciousness. Definitely check them out online** or if you are in the Los Angeles area.

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The base of this scrumptious appetizer is my basic bread dough. I use this dough for french bread or rolls, with a bit of olive oil for pizza dough or more olive oil for focaccia. A lot of times, I’ll substitute about 1/3 of the white flour for whole wheat to make myself feel less guilty about the carbs. Oh, who am I kidding, I’ve never really been the carb-watching kind. But it does actually taste nice and change things up by varying the flour combo.

So to start you need to dissolve yeast in warm, but NOT too hot water. The temperature needs to be between 100-110˚F. Trust me, you’ll learned this from a few dead breads. Too cold and the yeast will never come alive and too hot, you’ll kill all the action. Either way the bread will never rise. Honestly, I recommend using a thermometer until you get a feel for it.

Mix the yeast with 1/4 cup of the warm water and a pinch of sugar, about 1/2 tsp. I use less sugar then most yeast starters call for. You don’t actually need the sugar at all to make the yeast rise, it just shows you that it’s proofing. By proofing, I mean once you let the yeast, sugar, and water mix, it will sit for about 5 minutes and frothy bubbles will appear. Make sure the bubbles aren’t just the remaining, airy kind from your whisking it all together. They should be a bit thicker, as you can see here.

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The easiest way to tackle the dough is to start with a pretty wet base, mixing about 2 cups of flour and 1 tsp of salt with the yeasty water plus an additional 3/4 cup.

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Now start adding more flour, about 1/3 cup at a time, as it will begin to come together. In then end, you will have a mixture that is about 1 part water to 3 parts flour.

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Once you get to the stage where the dough is sticky but essentially one unit, it’s time to get in there with your hands. Add a good amount of flour over the top and kneed away.

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Keep adding flour until the dough no longer sticks to your hands. Note that this may require a few hand washings along the way. This can also be done in a Kitchenaid standing mixer with the dough hook attachment, if you have one. But not if you are like me and have a US one but have been to lazy to order a converter.

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Once the dough is soft but no longer tacky, transfer it to a larger bowl that has been drizzled with olive oil (or sprayed with Pam cooking spray, yet another fine American product that I’m greatly missing over here). Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow the dough to rise, until it has doubled in size. This should take between an hour and 90 minutes in a warm space. The time will vary based on your house conditions. I do recommend finding a pretty cozy, draft free spot for your bread. Lately, I’ve been using our bedroom dresser. Weird, I know. But it backs up to a radiator. The top of the refrigerator usually works well, too.

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Voila! Doubled.

Has this been way too much information? Well now’s the fun part. We get to transform this dough into bite-sized puffs of amazingness.

Mix together thawed and drained frozen spinach, cream cheese, sour cream, garlic, and seasonings. Have the filling ready and begin rolling the dough into small balls, which you will flatten into disks. If the dough is stick have some flour on hand to dust your hands.

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Once the dough disks are in the muffin tins, top with a scoop of spinach dip, then cheese.

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Bake for 20 minutes until golden on top and you have a perfect bite-sized appetizer for your next party!

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Spinach Dip Bread Bowls 

Makes 48 mini muffins

*adapted from Pickey-Palate.com

4 ½ cups flour

1 ½ cups warm water (100 F)

1 tsp yeast, (or 1 packet dry active yeast)

½ tsp sugar

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp salt

10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and drained

¾ cup light sour cream

6 oz. cream cheese at room temperature

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tsp Papa Christo Greek seasoning

pinch of cayenne pepper

½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Make the bread dough by mixing ½ cup warm water with the yeast and brown sugar.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes in order to be sure it “proofs.”  Using kitchen aid dough attachment (or if by hand, stir with wooden spoon and knead on floured surface for 5 extra minutes), mix together water, flour, salt, olive oil and yeast mix, until the dough comes together.  Continue to knead for 3 minutes.  Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel and put in a warm draft free location to rise for 1 hour (until doubled in size).

While dough rises, mix together the spinach, sour cream, cream cheese, garlic, and Greek seasoning.

Grease 2 mini muffin pans and preheat oven to 400 C.

Take a section of dough, about the size of a golf ball, and form a disk.  Place into the muffin pan and till with 1 Tbs of the spinach.  Repeat until all muffins are filled.  Sprinkle with cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.

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*http://picky-palate.com/2011/01/31/baked-spinach-dip-mini-bread-bowls/

**http://www.papacristos.com

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